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The Gators vow to run past Saturday's loss to Vanderbilt and try to improve in their final three games.

Sunday November 10, 2013Gators Notebook: Muschamp Seeks Leaders to Emerge, Murphy's Day, More Tidbits

The Gators vow to run past Saturday's loss to Vanderbilt and try to improve in their final three games.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GatorZone.com intern Jenna Perlman contributed to this report.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Mired in a four-game losing streak and with their 23rd consecutive bowl game in serious jeopardy, the Gators head to No. 12-ranked South Carolina on Saturday.

Florida (4-5, 3-4 SEC) needs two wins in its final three games to become bowl eligible. However, a bowl trip is not at the top of head coach Will Muschamp's priority list.

He is seeking for the Gators' leaders to rise to the occasion and close out the season strong.

Will Muschamp

"We’ve got to get the ball bouncing our way,’’ he said following Saturday's 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt. "You’ve got to create your opportunities. Self-evaluate where you are as a coach and a player and make improvements. That’s what we’re going to do."

After sleeping on Saturday's loss, Muschamp voiced the same tone on his Sunday TV show.

The Gators are not the same team physically -- injuries made sure of that -- or mentally that they were earlier in the season.

“Unfortunately, right now we're a very fragile football team,” Muschamp said Sunday. "When negative things happen, we kind of snowball it a little bit defensively, offensively and in special teams."

Four turnovers did the Gators in against Vanderbilt. Penalties continue to be an issue and inconsistency both offensively and defensively have plagued the Gators during their four-game skid.

Despite the growing criticism outside the program, quarterback Tyler Murphy does not see a team that has given up on the season.

Instead, a team that is making too many mistakes to win games.

"You can’t really control how the fans are going to feel," Murphy said. "We just have to keep playing hard and doing our best and try to make plays to give them something to cheer for. We’re going to keep fighting.

"Saturday we’ve got South Carolina. It seems like every week, things don’t get easier for us. So we don’t have any choice but to keep fighting."

Muschamp went back to work Sunday with one goal in mind: to improve and get a win.

He knows that is the best way to push back at critics.

“We’ll make the decisions to move forward that we need to do to help this football team in the latter part the season,’’ he said. “That’s my plan. We’re going to find a way. We’ve got to keep going at it. What we’re doing so far is not working.

"It’s a lot of different things. Everybody wants to put their finger on one thing and say ‘Eureka,’ but that’s not the way it works. There are multiple things we’ve got to get corrected and we will."

 

MURPHY PLAYS ON

With three interceptions and a fumble on Saturday, it’s easy to overlook the good things Murphy did in the loss to Vanderbilt.

Like throwing for a career-high 305 yards.

Tyler Murphy

Murphy completed 30 of 46 passes and became the first UF quarterback since John Brantley in 2011 against Furman to throw for 300 yards. Murphy's 30 completions were the most for a UF quarterback since Tim Tebow's 31 in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, his final game with the Gators.

A redshirt junior who took over the Gators’ offense when quarterback Jeff Driskel broke his leg against Tennessee, Murphy has also endured injury this season.

Murphy sprained the AC joint in his throwing shoulder at LSU and has not thrown the ball as crisply as he did in wins over Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas.

His throws missed the mark a few times Saturday.

Murphy’s first interception came on a throw that sailed on him and was picked off by Andre Hal. He threw two more and all three picks led to Vanderbilt touchdowns.

Murphy declined to blame any of his mistakes on the shoulder.

"I wouldn’t say it’s affecting me at all,” Murphy said. “I don’t make excuses. I didn't play well.”

At one point questions about whether Murphy would stay in the game surfaced when redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg was seen warming up on the sideline during the second half.

Muschamp insisted that there was never a plan to switch quarterbacks.

“I think he’s our best opportunity to win,” Muschamp said.

 

BIZARRE PLAY BENEFITS FULWOOD

Freshman wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood scored his first career touchdown on one of the more bizarre plays you will see this season.

Ahmad Fulwood

On second-and-1 from Vanderbilt's 11 with just under eight minutes left in the game, Murphy threw to Fulwood in the right corner of the end zone.

Murphy’s pass was first deflected and then kicked by Vanderbilt defensive back Paris Head as he fell to the ground. The ball popped into the air before it got to Fulwood. Fulwood initially bobbled the ball but he was able to secure it and keep his feet in-bounds for the score.

“I was happy for him,” Muschamp said, “He’s worked hard. He’s really developed himself, practiced well and given himself the opportunity. He’s going to be a really good player here.”

Fulwood finished the day with a career-high three catches for 33 yards.

 

GATORS ALL-ACCESS

A behind-the-scenes look at the Gators during their 34-17 Homecoming loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday at The Swamp ...

 

QUOTE OF NOTE I

"That doesn’t bother me. I made a mistake last week. I made a real mistake about a very, very passionate Florida fan that was telling me his opinion of me. You know what, that’s fine. They pay their tickets; they can boo all they want. It’s not going to help the program, but that’s fine." -- Muschamp on hearing boos Saturday

QUOTE OF NOTE II

"It's very possible. We've just got to eliminate mistakes and everything will pan out for us bowl-game wise." -- Gators senior offensive lineman Jon Halapio on Florida's bowl aspirations

QUOTE OF NOTE III

"This is a great win for our program. Our kids work hard at developing in practice. They've bought into what we're doing." -- Vanderbilt coach James Franklin

             

NOTES AND NUGGETS

The Gators' 19-game streak of forcing a turnover ended in the loss to Vanderbilt ... Florida used its sixth different starting offensive line combination in nine games Saturday as Ian Silberman made his first start of the season at left guard; Silberman, who started three games last season, started because Max Garcia started at left tackle in place of the injured Tyler Moore ... Gators tight end Tevin Westbrook hauled in a career-best 17-yard reception in the second quarter; Westbrook now has three catches for 30 yards, which other than Clay Burton's two-point conversion catch against Georgia, accounts for all the receptions by Florida tight ends ... The Gators have now been outscored 58-16 in the first quarter in conference play this season ... Driskel was on the sideline for the first time since his season-ending broken fibula; he watched the game wearing a protective boot on his lower right leg ... Receiver Quinton Dunbar had six catches for 77 yards, extending his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 25 ... Freshman receiver Chris Thompson had two catches for 12 yards, the first receptions of his career ... Sophomore Latroy Pittman's 8-yard reception in the fourth quarter was his first catch of the season ... Junior Ronald Powell recorded his team-leading fourth sack of the season when he dropped Patton Robinette for a 9-yard loss late in the second quarter ... Vanderbilt's win Saturday marked the first time in program history the Commodores beat Georgia and Florida in the same season.

 

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